Editorial: If Davis name must go, use Shoshone name for peak

Wheeler Peak (right) and Jeff Davis Peak (left)

The Nevada Board of Geographic Names voted unanimously this past week to, well, literally “white out” from Nevada maps the name of another historic figure whose actions do not comport with the current politically correct world view.

According to an Associated Press account, the panel has recommended to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to change the name of Nevada’s third highest mountain peak from Jeff Davis Peak to the Shoshone name Doso Doyabi — pronounced DOH-soh doy-AH-bee — which means “white mountain” and frankly sounds like the generic label given any mountain that remains largely snow-capped much of the year.

The push to change the name came a couple of years ago at the same time a number of monuments to members of the Confederacy were being taken down and there was a clamor to restore original American Indian names. The Obama administration issued an executive order renaming North America’s tallest peak in Alaska from Mount McKinley — named for the nation’s 25th president, Republican William McKinley, who was assassinated in office in 1901 — to Denali, the original Athabascan name.

The 12,771-foot Jeff Davis Peak is in White Pine County inside the Great Basin National Park.

The monicker was first attached to what is now Wheeler Peak, the tallest point in the park and the second tallest in Nevada. It was named Jeff Davis by Lt. Col. Edward Steptoe of the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers in 1855 while Jefferson Davis served as secretary of the War Department, a half dozen years before the Civil War began.

After the Civil War, during which Davis served as president of the Confederacy, an Army mapping expedition headed by Lt. George Montague Wheeler, named the peak for Wheeler and the Jeff Davis tag was shifted to the shorter nearby peak to the east.

At one point in the discussion there were calls to rename the peak for Las Vegas civil rights leader James McMillan or Robert Smalls, an escaped slave who fought for the Union in the Civil War but had no real link to Nevada any more than Jeff Davis did.

The AP reported that Christine Johnson, the collection manager for the Nevada Historical Society who serves as a non-voting member on the state naming board, said the name Doso Doyabi was supported by the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe and members of other area tribes.

In a letter from the Duckwater Shoshone elders, tribal member Warren Graham said reinstating the mountain’s original name would honor the tribe’s cultural heritage.

“These places were called something else before they were renamed” by Euro-American settlers, Graham wrote. “Some of these names are disappearing along with our elders and it is good that these names are not forgotten.”

Jack Hursh, a cartographer and publications specialist at the Nevada Bureau of Mines & Geology who serves on the naming panel, e-mailed the AP to say, “The Doso Doyabi name is a Nevadan name proposed by Nevadans.”

Though we are reticent to whitewash history with such name changes, returning to an original Shoshone label is preferable to attaching someone else’s name, lest they fall out of favor in the future.

As Jefferson Davis once said after the war, “Let me beseech you to lay aside all rancor, all bitter sectional feeling, and to make your places in the ranks of those who will bring about a consummation devoutly to be wished — a reunited country.”

We urge the national board to finalize the change and put this to rest.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Newspaper column: States should not be granted absolute immunity

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case this past week that could alter the ability of a private citizen to seek justice in his state’s courts when public employees from another state abuse their powers and step over the line of common decency. The case is titled Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt.

It all started in 1993 when a tax auditor for the Franchise Tax Board of California read a newspaper article about how wealthy California computer chip inventor, Gilbert Hyatt, had recently moved to Nevada, which, unlike California, has no income tax. The auditor investigated and concluded Hyatt had not moved to Nevada as early as he claimed. The tax board said Hyatt owed California nearly $15 million in taxes and penalties.

Hyatt eventually sued the tax board in Nevada courts for invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, abuse of process and breach of confidential relationship. According to The Wall Street Journal, California’s lead auditor became obsessed with Hyatt and vowed to “get that Jew bastard.” The auditor reportedly traveled to his Nevada home and “peered through his windows and examined his mail and trash,” as well as pressed estranged family members to testify against him.

A Nevada jury found for Hyatt and awarded him $85 million for emotional distress, $52 million for invasion of privacy, $1 million for special damages for fraud and $250 million in punitive damages. Because Nevada has a law limiting the liability of its own state agencies the award was later reduced to $50,000.

In a strange case of role reversal, the argument now before the U.S. Supreme Court being pressed by California is that one of its earlier opinions should be overturned. That case is known as Nevada v. Hall. California residents brought suit in a California court for damages when a state of Nevada-owned vehicle on official business collided with the Californians on a California highway. The California courts assessed damages of more than $1 million against Nevada.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1979 ruled that while states have sovereign immunity from being sued in their own courts, a state is not constitutionally immune from suit in the courts of another state.

In yet another twist, the attorneys general of 45 states, including Nevada’s then-Attorney General Adam Laxalt, have filed amicus briefs asking that Nevada v. Hall be overturned.

“The time has come for this Court to overrule its decision in Nevada v. Hall … an outlier among this Court’s consistent protection of the States’ sovereign immunity,” the brief argues. “Although this Court has held that States are immune in their own courts, in federal courts, and in federal administrative agencies, Hall allows a State to be haled before the courts of any other State and be forced to pay money judgments issued by those courts. This affront to the States’ sovereign dignity and financial resources is contrary to the Constitution’s structure and history and should be definitively rejected. For this reason, a total of forty-five States have joined briefs arguing that Hall should be overruled.”

During oral arguments this past week, California’s attorney argued that the “writings and speeches given by Hamilton, Marshall, and Madison” supported his view that states should be immune from legal action in the courts of other states.

Again according to the Journal, liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor responded, “It’s nice that they felt that way, but what we know is they didn’t put it in the Constitution. And so we talk a lot now about not relying on legislative history, but relying on the plain text.”

Conservative Justice Samuel Alito added that “we are all always very vigilant not to read things into the Constitution that can’t be found in the text.” Justice Brett Kavanaugh asked why something the states supposedly regarded as so important would not have been addressed in the constitutional text.

Where is a citizen to turn when public officials flout the law and run amok? Does not state sovereignty include the right and power to protect its own citizens from agencies in other states when they are extorted and defrauded? You know what they say about absolute power.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Editorial: Keeping taxes low will keep Nevada prosperous

Welcome to Nevada

It is called voting with your feet.

From July 1, 2017, to July 1, 2018, Nevada’s population grew by 62,000 people to more than 3 million — a growth rate of 2.09 percent, the fastest in the nation. This included a net migration of 48,000 people 

Many of them came from neighboring California, with its high taxes, high housing costs and burdensome regulations.

So, let that be a lessen to our newly elected Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak and the Democratic majorities in the state Senate and Assembly, which will be in session in a matter of weeks. 

According to The Wall Street Journal, the eight fastest-growing states by population last year were Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Florida, Washington, Colorado and Texas. What do these states have in common? Relatively low taxes and business friendly government policies, a Journal editorial noted. Nevada, Texas, Washington and Florida have no income tax, for example. 

Then there is California. Since 2010, a net 710,000 people have left California for other states.

High-tax states Illinois and Connecticut have actually lost population as people flee.

According to the Tax Foundation’s latest figures, California has the 10th highest state and local tax burden in the nation at $5,842 per capita. This compares to Nevada’s rank of 29nd at $4,099 per capita. It should be noted that three years earlier, prior to some recent Republican-backed tax hikes, Nevada ranked 43rd lowest. 

In an article in The Wall Street Journal in 2009 under the headline, “Soak the Rich, Lose the Rich,” economist Arthur Laffer and WSJ economics writer Stephen Moore updated previous studies and found that from 1998 to 2007, more than 1,100 people every day of the year relocated from the nine highest income-tax states — such as California, New Jersey, New York and Ohio — mostly to the nine tax-haven states with no income tax — including Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire and Texas.

Laffer and Moore determined that over that period of time the no-income tax states created 89 percent more jobs and had 32 percent faster personal income growth than the high-tax states.

“Dozens of academic studies — old and new — have found clear and irrefutable statistical evidence that high state and local taxes repel jobs and businesses,” Laffer and Moore concluded.

Federalism allows the states to compete for prosperity. Let’s hope our lawmakers take heed and act accordingly.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Newspaper column: Green New Deal would cost a lot of ‘green’

If you liked FDR’s New Deal — which imposed federal regulations, restrictions and spending in virtually ever aspect of American endeavor — you’ll love the Democrats’ Green New Deal.

Some elements of the vague and nebulous proposition were finally revealed in a draft resolution this past week. All except the price tag.

The “green” part of the proposal is audacious, to say the least: To replace all existing power sources in the country with 100 percent renewable power in the next 10 years, thus eliminating all greenhouse gas emissions in the country.

Oh, but not just this country. The resolutions calls for “funding massive investment in the drawdown of greenhouse gases; making ‘green’ technology, industry, expertise, products and services a major export of the United States, with the aim of becoming the undisputed international leader in helping other countries transition to completely greenhouse gas neutral economies and bringing about a global Green New Deal.” Pie in the sky.

The plan also calls for “upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety …”

How much “green” will that cost?

California’s Energy Commission recently mandated such efficiency measures for every new home being built in the state starting next year. The commission estimated the cost to be $9,500 per home.

Since there are more than 130 million residential housing units in the U.S., that alone would cost more than $1.2 trillion. There are at least 5.6 million commercial buildings in the country, most much larger than residences and therefore more expensive to remodel to “state-of-the-art energy efficiency” levels, much less comfort and safety.

But the Green New Deal does much, much more than clear the air. It also would “include additional measures such as basic income programs, universal health care programs and any others as the select committee may deem appropriate to promote economic security, labor market flexibility and entrepreneurism …”

Medicare for All, being pushed by socialist Bernie Sanders and others on the left, is estimated to cost $32 trillion over the next 10 years. Who knows what a “basic income program” would cost.

How to pay for it all? you ask. In the frequently asked questions section of the resolution there is a solution: Print money.

Actually it says, “The answer is: in the same ways that we paid for the 2008 bank bailout and extended quantitative easing programs, the same ways we paid for World War II and many other wars. The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments, new public banks can be created (as in WWII) to extend credit and a combination of various taxation tools (including taxes on carbon and other emissions and progressive wealth taxes) can be employed.” Read: Print money.

Recently on “60 Minutes” one of the chief proponents of the Green New Deal floated the idea of imposing a 70 percent income tax on the “wealthy.” Unrepentant socialist and New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said that, as in the 1960s, tax rates for those with incomes up to $75,000 could be as low as 10 or 15 percent, but much higher for those earning millions.

“But once you get to the tippie tops, on your ten millionth, sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 percent or 70 percent,” she added. “That doesn’t mean all $10 million are taxed at an extremely high rate. But it means that as you climb up this ladder, you should be contributing more.”

She fails to realize that there were enough deductions and loopholes that no one ever actually paid a 70 percent income tax rate.

Since the plan would eliminate a lot of jobs related to the fossil fuel industry, everything from gasoline stations to car manufacturers to power plant operators, it also benignly promises to “provide all members of our society, across all regions and all communities, the opportunity, training and education to be a full and equal participant in the transition, including through a job guarantee program to assure a living wage job to every person who wants one …”

It just comes so easy when you assign an army of federal bureaucrats to fix the problem. You know, the ones who run the Veterans Administration, the Post Office, the Internal Revenue Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Endowment for the Arts, Congress, etc., etc.

This poppycock reportedly is backed by 40 duly elected House Democrats.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Editorial: Adoption incentives could curb wild horse population

Why not?

Unless some self-appointed “wild horse lovers” step in and manage to quash the idea, the Bureau of Land Management is seriously considering still another method for reducing the wild horse and burro population on the open range and in pens.

The idea was floated in a report to Congress this past April. Instead of charging people $125 a head to adopt a wild horse or burro, pay people $1,000 a head to adopt and care for the feral animals instead of letting them starve on overgrazed range or languish in pens.

The report predicted, “If the incentive proves to increase adoptions beyond the planned 5,000, the BLM could decrease the use of permanent sterilization and increase removals to match adoption/sale totals. While this incentive would increase costs in the initial years, it will quickly pay for itself by lowering off-range holding expenditures,” adding that the program could reduce the 83,000 horses and burros on the open range to the goal of 27,000 by 2030.

The idea was endorsed in the latest issue of PERC Reports — a magazine published by the Property and Environment Research Center, a nonprofit institute dedicated to improving environmental quality through markets and property rights.

Writers Hannah Downey, the policy and partnerships coordinator and a research fellow at PERC, and Tate Watkins, a research and publications fellow at PERC and managing editor of PREC Reports, reported that under the current plan the BLM would pay adopters a $500 first installment 60 days after adoption. Once new owners demonstrate they are providing quality care after a 12-month probationary period the new owners would get another $500 payment.

“The plan has the potential to help improve the lives of wild horses while also benefiting taxpayers,” the PERC Reports article states. “Owning and caring for a horse is not cheap. The $1,000 payment should promote adoptions as the stipend can help cover veterinary and training costs. This sort of approach has been widely used by animal shelters that offer free adoptions or waivers for veterinary care to help get pets placed in loving homes, and it has potential to make a real difference in the lives of wild horses and burros.”

Why not treat wild horses and burros in a manner comparable to dogs and cats?

“Adoption is clearly a better outcome for a wild horse than starving on the range or living out the rest of its days in an overcrowded corral,” Downey and Watkins argue. “For taxpayers, the per-horse savings is undeniable. Spending $1,000 to find a mustang a good home is orders of magnitude cheaper — and likely much more humane — than caring for it in a government holding facility for the rest of its life.”

The BLM now spends more than $50 million a year to warehouse wild horses and burros, about 60 percent of its budget for protecting the beasts.

It’s worth a try.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Wild horses being warehoused at Palomino Valley near Reno. (Photo by Jo Mitchell)

Newspaper column: Ending net neutrality speeded up Internet

It has been a year since the Federal Communication Commission repealed net neutrality rules created by Obama’s FCC in 2015. Yet, the Internet miraculously survives. In fact, it is running 36 percent faster now that the meddlesome feds have been removed from the equation and the free market has been allowed to compete and innovate.

Net neutrality resurrected 1930s-style Ma Bell regulations to prohibit Internet service providers from charging anyone different rates, even the bandwidth gluttons such as Netflix and Google.

Back in May the Senate even passed a resolution seeking to bring back net neutrality. Though the effort fortunately stalled, Nevada’s Democratic delegation to D.C. was all for putting the Internet under the heavy hand of the central planners.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto took to the Senate floor in support of the resolution, saying, “Net neutrality has leveled the playing field for every American consumer, allowing everyone to access and enjoy an open Internet. … We can’t afford to repeal net neutrality. (FCC) Chairman (Ajit) Pai’s misguided decision to repeal net neutrality protections threatens to change the Internet as we know it. It threatens our small businesses, access to online education, job growth and innovation by giving those who can afford to pay more the ability to set their own rules.”

Rep. Dina Titus declared, “I agree with the vast majority of Americans who want the internet to promote innovation, access to information, and a competitive economy. All of that is at risk without strong net neutrality protections.”

Getty Image via WSJ

Then-Rep., now-Sen. Jacky Rosen stated, “This administration’s reckless decision to repeal net neutrality gives internet service providers the ability to stack the deck against Nevada’s hardworking families and small businesses who could be forced to pay more to connect to an internet with slower speeds. This resolution would reverse the FCC’s misguided ruling, which places large corporate profits ahead of people, and restore access to a free and open internet for Nevadans.”

Sen. Dean Heller at the time reasonably argued for the free market approach. “I do not want the federal government to determine content. …” Heller said. “I also don’t want the federal government to tax the Internet. I believe the Internet is the last bastion of freedom in America, frankly both good and bad, but it’s freedom. … Access to free and open internet service providers is especially important for Nevadans living in rural communities.”

Heller was right. Rosen was wrong.

According to Speedtest, fixed broadband speeds in the United States are rapidly increasing. Data for 2018 revealed a 36 percent increase in mean download speed and a 22 percent increase in upload speed. This meant the U.S. ranked seventh in the world for download speed and Nevada ranked seventh in the nation.

Back when the net neutrality rules were jettisoned many in the news media predicted doom and gloom. CNN declared it was “the end of the internet as we know it.”

But The Wall Street Journal correctly stated at the time that net neutrality created uncertainty about what the FCC would allow and thus throttled investment in new technology, because it prohibited paid prioritization — under which bandwidth hogs, such as video streaming companies, could have opted out of heavy traffic and switched to a toll road — which could increase profits to pay for innovation and greater speed.

The newspaper predicted both content providers and consumers would benefit from increased investment in faster wireless and fiber technology in the free market.

The invisible hand of the free market has again proven itself superior to the heavy hand of the central planners.

As economist Milton Friedman once said: “When government — in pursuit of good intentions tries to rearrange the economy, legislate morality, or help special interests, the cost come in inefficiency, lack of motivation, and loss of freedom. Government should be a referee, not an active player.”

Be forewarned, when Democrats take control of the House, expect another ill-advised attempt to resurrect net neutrality, despite empirical evidence to the contrary.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Editorial: Rooftop solar mandate not a good idea

Rooftop solar (r-J pix)

Now that California’s Energy Commission has approved mandatory efficiency standards for all homes built in the state after Jan. 1, 2020, including the requirement that rooftop solar panels be used, a self-styled environmental group is calling on every state to require solar panels on new homes.

Environment America Research & Policy Center says the requirement would save homeowners money and clean up the environment.

The California Energy Commission predicts that its new efficiency measures will mean new homes will use 7 percent less energy, but when the solar generation is factored in the home will use about 53 percent less electricity from the grid. So the bulk of the “savings” will come from the solar panels.

The commission calculates that the new standards will add about $9,500 to the cost of a new home but will save $19,000 in energy and maintenance costs over the next 30 years.

This pays no heed to the fact a 30-year mortgage payout is approximately double a home’s sticker price. So that $9,500 is really an outlay of, right your are, $19,000. And that’s before you take into consideration that solar panels last no more than 20 to 25 years and will have to be sent to the landfill at the homeowner’s expense before the mortgage is paid off.

California, like Nevada, has a net metering program. Every kilowatt-hour the homeowner uploads to the grid nets a penny-per-penny credit for power used from the grid. If that were to go away, as it almost did in Nevada, the savings quickly turn into a net loss on the return on investment.

Environment America estimates that a rooftop solar panel requirement could increase Nevada’s solar capacity from the current 2,658 megawatts to 4,111 megawatts by 2045 and reduce the state’s carbon output by 8.4 percent — enough to offset a couple of Chinese coal-fired generators.

Of course, none of this takes into account the potential breakthroughs in cheaper technology such as fuel cells.

Nor does it recognize that solar panels must be backed up by fossil fuel-burning generators when the sun doesn’t shine and these idling plants can actually increase the carbon output.

Nor does anyone mention the tons of toxic waste material left behind by the manufacture of solar panels.

If the monopoly power company, which the voters said in November will remain a monopoly, is essentially having to “buy” power from homeowners at the retail rate, this is bound to lead to rate hikes.

The voters also decided in November that Nevada must increase its renewable power portfolio to 50 percent by 2030. If voters again approve the requirement in two years, Heritage Foundation economist Stephen Moore estimates an average Nevada family would see their utility bills rise by about $1,000 annually. Costs to the gross domestic product could actually be much more because higher energy costs mean a higher cost of doing business across the economy that get passed on to consumers. The solar panel mandate would surely exacerbate the problem.

Let’s pray our lawmakers don’t embrace this latest California boondoggle.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.